Monday, 28 May 2012

Date a pair of stays

So, my dears, what do you say about these stays (NM.0001007)? Just by looking at it, which date would you give it? My first reaction was late 17th century. The shoulder straps are set so far out and angled so they must have rested at the shoulder joint, which is more of the fashion of the late 17th century than the 18th. Shoulder straps on stays usually seem to be placed just inside the neckline, not several centimeters away. The front also seems to mimic the late 17th century. What do you say?

The stays are part of the collection at the museum Nordiska in Stockholm. Made of chamois leather with lining in coarse linen. Much mended with linen in various qualities. Boned with whalebones, the Swedish say helt försett”, which indicate that it’s fully bones. Enforced with sturdier whalebones around the waist and across the bust. Cut with a front that narrows down to a point and is laced in the back. The shoulder straps are sewn to the back and tied to the front. There are traces of silk at the seams on the inside, which may indicate that this was originally a bodice in silk that has been covered with chamois leather.

The stays came to the museum in 1873 and it is noted that it used to belong to a “mamsell” Groth who died in the early 1830’s in Uppsala, almost a 100 years old. Her father was tied to the cathedral in Uppsala and she had a pension.

“Mamsell” was used as an honorific for unmarried women of the middle classes in Sweden until the 1860’s, (Miss was just for nobility), so this lady was clearly middle class and probably not too short of money. The museum dates the stays to 1750-1770, but I feel pretty certain that it’s wrong. Even if the stays belonged to mamsell Groth, they may not have been worn by her, or she inherited them. They have evidently been worn a lot. One possibility is that it is a late 17th century boned bodice that have been converted into stays during the 18th century, but that may have been done earlier as well. Regardless of when, the stays are intriguing and I’d love to hear your opinion on it. Unfortunately there are no more pictures- I would love to see the back and the inside.


Abby said...

The shoulder straps are actually at the points that are where the armpit is, which is normal. I would hesitate to say they are earlier for that reason alone. Granted, they do seem like the straps are wide in the back, but It's hard to tell how the stays are shaped since they're laying flat. If there were pictures of them from the back and on a mannequin, it might give a better idea as to how they actually look/work, etc. But a straight on front shot doesn't tell us enough....As for the boning pattern and the pattern shapes they seem to be in keeping with the 18th century as well. The cover is just a cover, there are other 18th century stays that have a similar cover over the boning that looks that way.

With all that being said, I would hesitate trying to date a garment like this on one frontal picture simply doesn't give enough information. For all we know it could be 6 inches wide in the back and that's why the shoulder straps are falling the way they are, or it could be butted edge to edge. It's a mystery since Nordiska Museet only has the one photo. :)

Cassidy said...

I think I agree with you based on the shape of the CF piece (unless this is an aspect of the difference between Scandinavian and Western European fashion) - late 17th, early 18th, 1750-1770 is very likely too late unless they're some kind of court dress (although the leather makes that unlikely).

It does look like the straps are very far out to the side, but as Abby said, there could be a huge gap in the back.

Isis said...

Abby: I agree, there are far too little inforation to say for sure and I would dearly love to be able to see it for real. There is no telling how it looks from the back, but I still think the angle where the strap is sewn from the back angles out far more than usual. Abutted or spaced apart, the shoulder straps would never be able to go straight over the shoulder, but out.

Nordiska has very limited time to let people look at their garments, which is a pity. I'd love too see this one for real!

Cassidy: Sweden followed the fashion of the rest of Europe. If it is made out of an old bodice, then it could be a court dress and then is could be 18th century of course.

juxtapose nz said...

Ha, ha - yes, I guess you could say the stays are "retro-1750".

Great blog.

Isis said...

juxtapose nz: I suppose so. :) Thank you!

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